I’ve Seen the Future

With my brain more jumbled than a Peter Gammons butt tweet, it’s hard to process the events of the past three weeks at 4 Yawkey Way. However, the future waits for no one, so it’s time to look forward to 2012. Future General Manager Ben Cherington will be making the decisions that will determine the future of the Red Sox. But, as is my wont, I will assume the duties of Mr. Cherington and construct a roster for the 2012 Red Sox. And trust me, changes are coming.

Let’s start with a payroll baseline. The Red Sox have just about $127 million in salary obligations for 2012. I’ll assume that arbitration raises (most notably a well-deserved raise for Jacoby Ellsbury) will take a generous $13 million. So the baseline is $140 million. The luxury tax for 2011 was $172 million, and had raised $8 million per year each of the last three years (this assumes that the luxury tax will still be in place for 2012). So let’s say the luxury tax threshold for 2012 will be $180 million.

Starting Pitchers (5)

Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, Alfredo Aceves, John Lackey

The Red Sox are locked in on John Lackey, whether we like it or not. After the worst season of his career, it won’t be easy to trade Lackey, no matter how much money John Henry, et al. would be willing to eat. Lackey’s trade value is at its nada. But he has to pitch better than last year, right? Right?

I think that David Ortiz was right – Alfredo Aceves belongs in the rotation. He might not have been right at the time, however. Aceves’ highest value in 2011 was in the bullpen but in 2012 it will be in the rotation. When Daisuke Matsuzaka returns from his injury he may become a starter with Aceves moving back to the bullpen. If Lackey can even show a modest improvement from the 2011 disaster and the rotation stays healthy and trim, this is a formidable five.

 

Relief Pitchers (7)

Heath Bell (Free Agent), Daniel Bard, Bobby Jenks, Javier Lopez (Free Agent), Franklin Morales, Junichi Tazawa, Michael Bowden (swing role)

You see what I did there? I’m afraid that tough decisions will have to be made. Jonathan Papelbon has stated that he wants to set the market for closers. Power to him, it is his right. However, Heath Bell (who made $7.5 million in 2011) could be signed at a few million cheaper per year than Papelbon will likely get in free agency and will do just about as good a job. I’m thinking that a 4 year/$48 million contract could get Bell, and what do you know, $12 million is exactly what Papelbon made in 2011. Free agent compensation will be a relative wash between the two.

Welcome back old friend Javier Lopez. Lopez is a premier bullpen lefty. Sure, his 2009 with the Red Sox was turrible, but before that, and afterward with Pittsburgh and San Francisco, Lopez was hell on left-handed batters, holding them to a .223 batting average against. Lopez made $2.375 million last year, so let’s say that 3 years, $4 million per (there or thereabout) could get it done. Franklin Morales will be the other lefty in the pen.

With health for Bobby Jenks, development from Tazawa and Bowden, and good years from the rest, this is a darned good bullpen. However, this means the end of the road for Tim Wakefield. I have grown to appreciate Wakefield’s service to the Red Sox over the years, but the writing is on the wall. Wakes doesn’t give the Red Sox “league average” pitching anymore, and catching the knuckleball is such a specialty (and Jarrod Saltalamacchia just doesn’t seem to have the ability to do it) that carrying a specialist catcher ends up taking two roster spots that can be utilized more efficiently. Red Sox Nation will miss Tim Wakefield but the future is now.

 

Catchers (2)

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Ryan Lavarnway

Also getting a gold watch will be Jason Varitek. Varitek was great in his day, but that was then. Ryan Lavarnway deserves a chance to develop into a major league player, and Varitek’s leadership, which was so sadly lacking in 2011, won’t earn him a roster spot in 2012. This position is one of hope for the Red Sox. Saltalamacchia hasn’t lived up to his hype as a prospect but he’s good enough. If Lavarnway develops, however, what was once a weakness could be a strength.

 

Infielders (5)

Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedroia, Jose Iglesias, Mike Aviles, Jed Lowrie

Yes, I’m trading Kevin Youkilis. With one year left on his contract (making $12.250 million), Youkilis is one of the few tradeable assets the Red Sox have (with which they might be willing to part). Trading Youkilis might be difficult, however, as he has missed 128 games over the last three seasons. I’ll tell you who I’m trading Youkilis for in the next section.

I’m not entirely certain that Jose Iglesiasis ready for the big time at the plate but all reports say he surely is ready in the field. And Iglesias won’t cost nearly as much as signing Jose Reyes would. I was impressed with Mike Aviles this past year and I think he will be a very good replacement for Kevin Youkilis at third base. If Jed Lowrie can stay healthy (don’t laugh, it could happen), this is a decent infield (although much better on the right side than the left).

 

Outfielders (5)

Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ryan Kalish, Josh Reddick, Domonic Brown (acquired in a trade for Kevin Youkilis)

Philly has a lot, a lot of culcha dere, and now they have Kevin Youkilis. Ryan Howard‘s torn achilles tendon could keep him out for much, if not all, of 2012, and Kevin Youkilis can go back to playing first base, which will be much easier on his battered body. In return, the Red Sox will get Domonic Brown, who the Phillies seemed to give up on this year. Brown hasn’t developed as quickly as Philadelphia expected, but Brown will be given a chance to develop in Boston. One of Reddick, Kalish and Brown should be able to make the development leap and take over right field at Fenway.

As much as I would like to trade Carl Crawford(for Mike Trout *cough*), I’m not going to do it. First of all, his contract is quite onerous for many teams to take. Secondly, he just had the worst year of his career. However, I think that’s good news. I expect a big comeback year from Crawford, and I hope John Henry tells him that personally. The outfield is a bit short on pure power hitters but should be excellent defensively.

 

Designated Hitter (1)

Wait for it…

Wait for it….

Albert Pujols 

Yes, The Machine is coming to Boston. John Henry and Tom Werner will back the truck up for Pujols. It’s the perfect Red Sox signing – the biggest name on the free agent market, one of the two best players of this generation (I hate to say it, but A-Rod is the other), and a guarantee to keep Fenway full for years to come. It’s really a no-brainer (which makes it the perfect decision for me). Expect the signing to be announced, as is tradition, the day before tickets go on sale.

I know that Pujols has said that he doesn’t want to be a designated hitter and he won’t be, primarily. He and Adrian Gonzalez will share time at DH and first base, thus reducing the wear and tear for both of them. This should extend both of their careers, hopefully ensuring for each other that they maintain their value in the last few years of their contracts.

Speaking of contracts, what will it take to sign Albert Pujols? I think a starting point of 8 years, $28 million a year might get it done, 9 years and $29 million could seal it, 10 and $30 million per would make Albert walk to Boston.

But where does that money come from? Some comes from not re-signing J.D. Drew, some from trading Kevin Youkilis, and sadly, some comes from letting David Ortiz walk. Perhaps the best move Theo Epstein ever made, Big Papi will always be beloved in Boston. But as good as Ortiz has been, the future is now. Signing Albert Pujols is the better long-term move. Ortiz may have two more very good years in him, but Pujols is sure to have many more than Papi.

Red Sox Nation says goodbye to Tim Wakefield, Jason Varitek, David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Kevin Youkilis, Jonathan Papelbon, Erik Bedard, Dan Wheeler, Marco Scutaro, Darnell McDonald, Conor Jackson, Felix DoubrontTrever Miller and Matt Albers. Our payroll baseline was $140 million. Taking Youkilis’s $12 million and change off the payroll makes $128 million. Pujols, Bell, and Lopez will cost approximately $46 million. The payroll of the 2012 Boston Red Sox is $174 million, $6 million below the expected salary cap. I like the 2012 Red Sox. A lot.

Categories: Boston Red Sox

Scott Candage is a long-time Red Sox fan. He recently came in third in the 127th annual Upperclass Twit of the Year competition. His best friend is a tree and he is a stockbroker in his spare time.

22 Responses to “I’ve Seen the Future” Subscribe

  1. Nuggetpalooza October 16, 2011 at 8:49 AM #

    As exciting as having A-Gon and Pujols would be, I'll be SHOCKED if it happens (except on fantasy teams). Keeping players happy is a consideration, and I'm not sure that either player would be happy in this case.

    We'll see, though!

  2. TomF87 October 16, 2011 at 11:22 AM #

    I agree that Lackey is untradeable and the Sox are stuck with him. Hopefully he will be sufficiently embarrassed by his 2011 performance that'll he'll bounce back. Plus, perhaps whatever personal issues were a distraction for him won't be there in 2012. I also like the idea of giving Aceves a starting job, and if Daisuke can bounce back – heck, he might be better than Wakefield and all the reclamation projects were on 2011 combined. Eddes floated the idea of trading Beckett – obviously I think this sounds crazy and not that I want to put too much stock in the smear job the Boston press is busy churning out, but if they got something in return that might be less of a lightning rod then maybe they should?

    On the relief front, I agree that if Pap wants to set a new high bar for closers he should do so but not with the Red Sox. Nice work there!

    I hope Lavarnway is up for the job…

    Infield – firstly, I think the Sox should keep Scutaro, he has been solid in the position and the 'platoon' with Lowrie looked like it worked well in 2011. Iglesias hasn't looked great just yet but maybe he'll win the job in spring training. As much as I like Youk, he is getting older and maybe they should trade him while he still has value from some teams, though might he be a possible DH? Lastly, I hope the Sox don't sign Reyes – as skilled and flashy as he is, he is a bit of a head case and has spent a lot of time on the DL recently, and given the salary that he can probably command I see another Crawford scenario playing out…

    Outfield – I wonder if a Kalish/Reddick 'platoon' and 'win-the-job' fight would bring out the best in both, leaving the Sox with a) a young, starting right fielder, and b) an asset to trade. Not sure how your trade with Philly scenario will play out but given the injury to Howard anything is possible, especially after their early exit from the playoffs and no real weakness in the starting rotation.

    Pujols? You're smoking crack. Please let's not turn this team into an even bigger roster of players that sign for big dough and then decide that's good enough for them and show no desire to win a championship (I've been suffering through years of this with my favorite hockey team – no not the Brooons – and would rather not see the Sox descend into that morass).

    You guys do great work here, thanks so much. I find it extraordinary that far more rational and reasonable analysis and speculation can come from a humble blog that clearly isn't interested in creating controversy to drive traffic and ad sales. As painful as September was to live through, not to mention the disgusting aftermath, I can't wait for 2012, partly because of you guys. Thanks again!

  3. Paul Testa October 16, 2011 at 11:23 AM #

    I certainly to would be shocked if the sox signed Pujols but man that would certainly ensure fans in the gate. 10 years completely scares me for a guy that looked 30 when he was 20.

    I also love the Heath Bell signing but think that would seal Bard demanding to be a starter. His stuff is too good to give up the future money he would forfeit by being an 8th inning guy for the next 4 years. This would put Aceves back in the pen which I am ok with.

    I can be on board with trading Youk if it nets us the right person. Brown could be that guy but Philly would have to be sold that Howard will not be back in May like most reports have as a return.

    The rest is spot on I think its time for goodbyes for Pap, Tek, Wake, Drew and Papi. I will miss some of them but hard decisions have to be made at times and these are the correct tough calls.

    Great article!!!

  4. Sawxfan23 October 16, 2011 at 1:29 PM #

    So you are going to let the most major league ready starting left handed pitcher in our system just leave? Domiic Brown straight up for Youkilis is laughable at best and idiotic at worst. Heath Bells stats are misleading due to that cavernous ball park hes in and hes getting older and coming off the fewest ks/9inn of his career.

    • ChipBuck October 16, 2011 at 7:26 PM #

      While I disagree with Scott's decision to drop Doubront, I'm not sure what makes you think he's a major league ready starter. He has a decent fastball, but his secondary pitches aren't good enough for him to be anything more than a fringe starter.

      As for Bell, I don't disagree with your assessment on his K/9. Still, it's very possible that the numbers are more of a fluky/anomaly. Mo Rivera had a couple of seasons where his K/9 dropped unexpectedly, only to have them turn around again.

      With regards to Youk/Dom Brown, I don't recall him saying it would be a straight up deal.

  5. Gerry October 16, 2011 at 1:56 PM #

    Thanks for the enjoyable read. Agree fully about Reddick/Kalish for the OF and agree Brown would be a good get. But not at Youk's expense. He's part of the leave it all on the field local good guy that we need to hang onto, and yelling Yoouk is as much a part of the Fenway experience as Take Me Out To The Ballgame; and is the best barometer of how many Sox fans are at away games. Besides, as a DH/3B he offers awesome offense on many levels. Besides, on my dream Sox team the payroll goes down, not up, as I'd rather be considered as smart as the Rays than as rich as the mfy, earn Rings rather than buy them. Going for Pujols while letting our hometown heroes walk is not q pleasant thought. Besides, the problem is pitching. I'd rather keep Paps for 3/39 than Bell for 3/36, and I think Paps would rather stay than leave. I agree fully that Bowden should be in the Pen but not as a swingman…yet. He is awesome for an inning, but his yo-yo like switches between Fenway and Pawtucket, starter and closer, since age 21-22, require stability for a while as he gains confidence in his abilities. He's a good one that has done everything asked, but needs to succeed at Fenway for a while. Stretch him out later when he is ready. I still think they have to move Lackey, for many reasons, not least of which is that Boston fans will be merciless when the media digs into his divorce issue. His negative reception at games
    and in the press will affect everyone on the team and won't go away, undermining every effort to move forward. Move Lackey to the NL, sign Bedard, move Bard or Acevas to the rotation, and welcome back to Lopez.

    • Gerry October 16, 2011 at 2:29 PM #

      IMO Iglesias will eventually hit OK. His hand-eye coordination and speed is too good not to. But because his defense is so incredible he's been pushed too fast (as Bowden was) and been the youngest player at his level since he arrived and has yet to catch up. With his injury last year he probably lost a little more ground. Let him learn to hit at AAA before bringing him up permanently, which will probably be in 2012. Meantime Scutaro with a rested shoulder and consistent playing time will be better than solid until Jose is ready, probably at the same
      time Scooter's shoulder starts lagging his throws. Meanwhile, among the kids, Doubront has no options so should be in the Pen, ditto for Miller if the Sox plan to keep him, which is a difficult decision, Lavarnway is now, Middlebrooks, Wilson and Tazawa are imminent. This is a winning team with good depth, but it need not be blown up.

  6. TroyPatterson October 16, 2011 at 2:05 PM #

    I disagree with a few things here. Aceves ERA as a starter so far shows he could be acceptable, but I would prefer bringing Bedard back. (4.18)

    There is no chance Youk nets you Brown.

    Bell at closer has its issues with his poor K rate in 2011, but unlike said above about PETCO it's not as bad as stated. His xFIP is about 3.20 and that would be a target for him in Boston.

    Pujols is not coming to Boston.

    • TroyPatterson October 16, 2011 at 2:36 PM #

      Also Scutaro has a player option. He may be here even if Sox don't take his option.

    • ChipBuck October 16, 2011 at 7:28 PM #

      Agreed on the Pujols. Nice thought, but it's not going to happen. FWIW, he's also not going to NYY either.

  7. Gerry October 16, 2011 at 4:22 PM #

    Club option is for $6M and player option is for $3M. I wonder if Scoot wants to play longer and would look for a contract elsewhere? If so, he may be willing to re-work his Sox contract into something like 2/$8M which he might make elsewhere. He is not only a good SS, but could segue back to Utility infielder in 2013, backing and mentoring Iglesias and modeling his courageous all-in mentality and stability to a team that needs it.

  8. @chriskelley81 October 16, 2011 at 8:42 PM #

    I thought the article started out relatively reasonable and ended in a dream sequence. I thought the rotation was a buyable layout, the bullpen seemed feasible (even though I think Cherington makes a full-court press for Papelbon) and even the infield wasn't a complete stretch (trading Youk is certainly possible, but what value could he actually capture?).

    But when you make a deal in which you receive Dominic Brown for Youk (I understand there may be more parts involved), I can't see that working. Reddick may not be the answer and Kalish hasn't had a chance to completely prove himself in the majors (mostly due to injury). Brown didn't perform that well after being called upon on a couple of different occasions during the past season. I think he'd have a more difficult time adjusting to the American League as well.

    The dream really accelerated with putting Pujols at DH. Not happening. He'll either be in St. Louis (odds-on favorite), Chicago (Theo's first big splash) or Florida (putting butts in seats in Miami).

    All in all, not bad. I really think Cherington gets back to what made the Sox successful years ago – continue to develop the farm, pick up some role players to fill in around a core of All-Stars in the lineup and get some depth in the rotation and pen to insure another 2011 meltdown is less likely to occur.

    CK

  9. Tim Daloisio October 16, 2011 at 8:48 PM #

    I have to agree with many commenters here thus far that Youk's trade value isn't a major league ready, high ceiling player. Not that Youk isn't worth alot, but you don't give up young controlled high end talent for aging, injury riddled guys no matter how good they are. I also don't see Pujols as a fit here — too many long term high dollar contracts rids the roster of any long term flexibility. Too highly leveraged.

    That said, I think the most enlightening thing in this piece — and it is well thought out — is a path to freeing up the type of money to allocate to any player (or a few players) that could make a difference immediately at Fenway Park. Well done.

  10. Dale Sams October 16, 2011 at 8:49 PM #

    You don't leave the worst pitcher in the league in your rotation. Stick him in the BP and go with a 100ERA+ pitcher such as Wang or Edwin.

    You've downgraded at SS, closer and theres no way Aviles replaces Youk.

    • Tim Daloisio October 16, 2011 at 8:54 PM #

      I do agree 100% on Aviles not being an everyday option at 3B. They can get away with something less than Youk. But has to be a defensive + and a consistent presence. I don't think Aviles or Lowrie are either.

  11. Dave October 16, 2011 at 9:28 PM #

    Fun read. It looks like the Hot Stove has started in Boston already. My ideal roster: Send Lackey to the bullpen and move Aceves to the starter role. Viola, Lackey's out of the clubhouse and we only have to watch spot starts.

  12. Cole October 17, 2011 at 2:50 AM #

    First I wanna preface by saying that I'm not as schooled in baseball facts and stats as much as the crew here on this site (that's why I read it though! a very good education)

    Anyways, as long as we're thinking about fantasy players, and by that I mean Pujols, why not instead think about somebody like Prince Fielder? I mean he may not have such a long track record as Pujols, but it seems like he's got more of a future, thinking of longevity. Also he just seems like a better fit character wise, whoever's gonna fill big papi's shoes needs to be a big guy himself-if ya know what I mean?

    I mean if we're just talking fantasy, that would be my fantasy pick.

  13. Brian October 17, 2011 at 10:03 AM #

    Catch – salty, lavernway
    1st – gonzo
    2- peddy
    SS- Scutaro / Lowrie
    3rd – Youk / Avilies
    LF – Crawford
    C- Ellsbury
    Right-Kalish.
    DH – Youk/Lavernway

    rotation – Lester, buch, beckett, buerhle, Bard.
    Bullpen – Pap, Bell, Jenks, Wheeler, LOOGY, Aceves, Lackey

    Completely Theoritcal Splash move – Trade Ellsbury, (Reddick or Ingelias) and Weiland for Felllx Hernandez.

    • Brian October 17, 2011 at 10:04 AM #

      Let papi, Tek, Wake, and Drew walk.
      Sign Mark Buerhle
      Sign Heath Bell
      Resign Scutaro
      Resign Papelbon.

  14. Gerry October 17, 2011 at 4:00 PM #

    IMO the crux of the face of the franchise Papi situation is this:

    1. He has complained about his contract for the entire year and has now talked about how bad Boston is and how the mfy are appealing to him. During the same period he threw Tito (who was incredibly loyal to him) under the bus twice that we know of and publicly stated that he has no responsibility for leadership (he called it babysitting) in the clubhouse. On that level one of my all time favorite players has become part of a festering problem. On top of that he wants double what other DH's make for several years starting at age 36.
    2. Keeping Papi at DH will no doubt provide exceptional offense (which

    will again disappear in the insane interleague schedule, and also for half the WS if the team gets that far.) But this decision is not in a vacuum. Keeping Papi at DH negatively impacts the offense of three other potent bats: Youk, Lavarnway, Lowrie, and deprives the team of either a 5th bench player or 8th RP. Finally, the $10-13M of Papi's contract will hurt the pickup of a good SP or RP or both.

    The question: is Papi's offense more potent than the combined offense of a healthy, rested Youk/Lava at DH, a healthy Lava/Salty at C, and a fifth bench player, and what is the cost benefit analysis based on that conclusion.
    3.

  15. Gerry October 17, 2011 at 4:08 PM #

    Sorry, add to those bats Youk/Lowrie at 3b. Is the addition of Lavarnway's bat, the long term preservation of Youk's bat and glove, consistent ABs for Lowrie, amazing power numbers from the C position, and added offense/defense of a 5th bench player, plus saving $12M worth more than Papi's offense and dealing with his own strange sense of entitlement? It's a tough question because Papi has been and rains so integral to this team.

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